Korean Air Is Discontinuing Flights To Houston As Of Next Month

Filed Under: Korean Air

Korean Air offers service to more US cities than any other Asian airline (they fly to 11 US cities). They also have a fantastic loyalty program that’s transfer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, and redeeming SkyPass miles for travel in first class is super easy. It’s especially practical for people who live in cities that don’t otherwise have a lot of international first class award availability.

Well, unfortunately there’s some bad news for those in one of Korean Air’s US gateway cities. Korean Air will be discontinuing flights between Seoul Incheon and Houston as of October 13, 2017. That’s not a lot of advance notice for canceling a longhaul international route.

The route is presently operated 3x weekly by a Boeing 777-200 with the following schedule:

KE29 Incheon to Houston departing 9:20AM arriving 8:25AM
KE30 Houston to Incheon departing 10:40AM arriving 3:50PM (+1 day)

Korean Air launched this route in 2014, and I guess it has been performing so badly that they’re finally pulling the plug, despite the flight only being operated by a 777-200 three times per week. Houston is a United/Star Alliance hub, so the route has always depended on actual traffic to/from Houston, since connections were virtually non-existent (the airline has a lot more opportunities for connecting passengers in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle, which are also Delta hubs).

There has been one other thing working against Korean Air since the route launched. In 2014 Korean Air was one of the only non-US airlines flying nonstop between Houston and Asia (the other being Air China, which launched flights to Houston the previous year), while in the following 12 months ANA and EVA Air all also added service to Houston. They have the advantage of partnering with United, meaning they’re not just having to serve the local community, but also get a good number of connecting passengers. So this route would probably be a much better fit for Asiana, though they also don’t seem especially keen on expanding internationally.

Add in the fact that Houston doesn’t have an especially large Korean population, and there just doesn’t seem to be a way for this route to work.

(Tip of the hat to airliners.net)

  1. A little off. Air China started flying to Houston in 2012 or 2013- way before Korean Air started flying. And Singapore Airlines, though it stopped in Moscow, was an Asian airline flying to Houston way before Korean started.

  2. Flew KE F HND-GMP then ICN-SFO less than a week ago and was completely underwhelmed – disappointed, actually – and have vowed never to redeem miles on them again. I know, I know…their loss. But really a super lackluster experience.

    Hard product is great, but soft product was abysmal. Lounge at ICN was somewhere between domestic United Club and the Centurion Lounge. Yes, their First Class Lounge is generally on par with a United Club. In fact, I’d say Delta Sky Clubs are actually better all around. Service was well-intentioned by just all over the map. Tiny TINY pours of any consumable liquid. We’re talking shot-glass pours of water, champagne, anything. Food was absolutely unmemorable to downright bad. I was interrupted constantly to ask if I needed anything else. Zero concept of anticipating needs, to the point where it was very incredibly intrusive to stop my movie, my eating, whatever to say, “No, I don’t need anything. I didn’t need anything 7 minutes ago either when you opened the suite doors to ask if I needed anything.” It was awful. And on the HND-GMP route the only non-beer alcohol they stocked was a singular bottle of red wine. It’s a short flight, but still clocks in at 2:20 in general. That’s pretty pathetic. And that’s just the first-wolrd-problems-whining-on-the-internet tip-of-the-iceberg list of complaints. If I had paid an actual fare, I’d be irate. I’m unsure how they survive as an airline. Subsidies?

    It’s almost like Nutgate has caused them to go full-tilt in the other direction and pester customers relentlessly. It was super tedious and obnoxious and junior varsity compared to OZ and nearly every other non-mainland-China airline operating out of Asia. I’m glad they’re pulling out of a US city. I’d like to see them follow suit with the rest of the country.

  3. Interesting! They were the only airline flying nonstop IAH-ICN and couldn’t make that work. But they keep DFW-ICN and they have daily competition with AA.

  4. Thanks for the heads up. I fly first class award twice per year IAH – MNL via ICN. I agree with the comment I on the ICN first class lounge. It is comparable to US domestic lounges. My KE first class trips have always been pleasant. Great service, food and drink. F/A English skills are sometimes poor, but that just keeps the conversation light. I’m currently scheduled first class LAX ICN MNL on Nov 5 and MNL ICN IAH on Nov 20. After reading this I called KE to inquire and was told my flight was suspended to Houston and to call during business hours to make other arrangements. Wonder if they had any plans to call me?

  5. I noticed their low prices all summer. I blame it on the situation that’s going on in North Korea. I dont think I want to be Seoul Incheon for a layover as this point. I am sure many people are feeling that way too.

  6. I have to agree with @Adam R and @Nate. I find Korean Air abysmal in most aspects except the hard product. Food on such a long flight is truly pathetic. I second the tiny tiny portions given to you – and they know exactly what they are doing. The keep asking you to highlight good customer service knowing perfectly well that you will tire of asking for another shot glass of water and just give up. I think they watch British Airways with envy. Korean Air is a big trick – I would stay away.

    I also think most people are staying away – with good reason – because of the present conflict. Its really a shame . Korean air should be amazing in that region. I would most definitely choose Japan or ANA instead.

  7. I have an upcoming award flight from Houston on Korean Air. I have also paid for a nonrefundable ticket on United to get from New Orleans to Houston on the morning of my award flight. Do you think Korean Air will reimburse me for this ticket as they have cancelled the flight?

  8. “But they keep DFW-ICN and they have daily competition with AA.”

    Actually, KE and AA codeshare on that route.

  9. @kerryn – KE is under no obligation to reimburse for your ticket MSY-IAH. that said, be proactive about it, call them, and maybe they can do something. Prepare for a no, but be surprised with a yes.

  10. I live in Houston and most of the Koreans I know fly Asiana or United and are at least gold (or Start Alliance Gold). KE passengers always fill up the KLM Priority Pass Lounge a couple hours before 11am though. I’ve been denied entry a few times because of them. Shame that KE is leaving Houston, I was planning to take them to Seoul in the winter.

  11. I guess with oil at 100+ there was a lot of demand from Korean Engineering companies visiting Texas working in all kind of energy related projects. Not anymore

  12. I just spent the last hour rescheduling my flight from MNL ICN IAH on Nov 20. Reservations transferred me to Skypass as I had used Koren miles via Chase Sapphire to book. Skypass agent insisted that flight was still scheduled. I insisted that he continue to check. He finally came back and confirmed flights were cancelled. He initially said flights after Nov 20 were cancelled because he could not find. However as we know all IAH flights are cancelled. I am now MNL ICN LAX then LAX IAH AA. I wanted to fly the 380 so I get it on the way over as I intentionally booked LAX ICN for the 380 and I get to fly it again on the way back.

  13. Read something earlier on a comment on D.O.C. about Amex adding Korean as a transfer partner….. anybody else hear anything about this?

  14. I have a return flight on Korean Air on November 6. I have called and emailed Korean Air about KE29 and they will tell me nothing. I need to know something pretty fast if I need to cancel this flight and book on another airline.

  15. David, keep calling and strongly advise them that you know flights are already suspended. Insist they keep looking until they find it themselves. Took me three times to finally convince the right person. Stay on the line until they make the change. Their customer service is quite interesting. Another term for poor.

  16. My dad (a former Thai Airways International customer) who has a home in BKK flew with Korean Air c. 2014 – 16 until the DPRK ICBM launches by the Kim regime forced a substitution 2 Singapore Air (he flew with Singapore Air in 2013) and at the time SAL, Thai Airways, and Korean Air had roundtrip airfares valid 4 12 months where expatriates, missionaries (religious institutions) on an overseas pilgrimage took benefit and the airlines serving Bush IAH to Asia (ANA, EVA, SIngapore, Emirates) have valid six month roundtrip airfares in compliance with USCIS and immigration law (also inclusive of taxation bodies in compliance with the international 183 Day Rule for income tax liability and double taxation – policy similar to subnational taxation within the USA eg California, New York have a state income tax while TX and Florida do not) of the respective flags pertaining to the airline used (in this case Japan, Taiwan ROC, Singapore, United Arab Emirates); my dad declined Air China since a passenger in transit must wait 24 hrs until a connecting flight departs

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